Back in 2010, I wrote a story about a new startup named Energy in Common that lent money to people in the developing world to buy renewable energy systems like solar panels. It worked just like Kiva by aggregating small loans from people like me into larger loan packages. At the time, I put in $25 to help Edna Mganga, a restaurateur in Tanzania, buy solar panels for her restaurant. My small investment was pooled with others into $1,085, which Edna used to purchase her panels. The terms of the loan was 12 months, though I remember being paid back a few months ahead of schedule.

Energy in Common was started by Hugh Whalan, a young and very excited entrepreneur who I ended up talking with a bit via email as I learned more about his company. We’ve kept in touch over the years, and I later wrote about another venture of his into "nano-loans" (micro-micro loans, e.g. $50 for a solar lantern).

So I was happy when Hugh recently sent me an email with news of his latest success — his small-scale energy company, Impact Energies, was acquired by Persistent Energy Partners, a NYC-based company that specializes in selling and leasing renewable energy systems to low-income markets in Africa.

Hugh Whalon and business partner Nate Heller installing a solar system in Ghana

Hugh Whalan with business partner Nate Heller installing a solar panel system (using Devergy grid technology)  in Ghana.

Hugh wouldn't confirm the total value of the deal, but I reached out to contacts in the renewable energy industry who gave calculated estimations of around seven figures.

If that estimate is close to its mark, then this is remarkable news. Hugh’s company Impact Energies markets renewable energy systems in Ghana communities, where the average citizen earns just $1-$6 a day. This acquisition is a healthy sign for other social entrepreneurs looking at small-scale renewable energy.

Small energy is big these days. My good friend Quayle Hodek gave a talk at a TEDxMaui event about the importance of small energy, highlighting the work of a company named Quetsol, which has a similar business model to what Impact Energies does and that sells small solar-powered battery packs to poor Guatemalans. The world certainly needs big renewable energy developments like wind farms and solar parks, but we also need to spread solar and wind power out wide and small to all the poor families in the world who lead lives dictated by darkness.

Impact Energies has been absorbed into Persistent Energy Partners and has been rebranded as Persistent Energy Ghana. The company will continue working throughout Ghana on leasing and selling solar panels systems financed through microloans.

Nice work, Hugh!

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